Lessons from JVA’s Executive Director Academy Genius Bar

How do engage your board of directors?

By Sandy WiegandCopyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action

Whether your board members get their hands dirty helping with the day-to-day business of your nonprofit, or they’re all about (raising) the money, you’ll do well to nurture relationships with each of them as individuals. That was the consensus of the four executive directors who were part of the Genius Bar for JVA’s most recent Executive Director Academy.

The Genius Bar panel featured Nita J. Gonzales, president/CEO of the Escuela Tlatelolco Corporation; Adrianne Maddux, chief operating officer and acting CEO of Denver Indian Health & Family Services; Damon McLeese, executive director of Access Gallery; and Mary Cipollone, executive director of the Heart and Hand Center For Youth and Their Families.

Here’s their advice on the best ways they’ve found to engage your board:

  1. Have individual meetings and coffees with them, and meet with your board chairperson once a month.
  2. Make sure you have a board you trust, so when they have to make hard decisions, you trust them to do it.
  3. Keep your board members informed about what you’re doing—they should never first learn about an important decision you’ve made from the community.
  4. Develop clear expectations and have them sign commitments.
  5. Have a performance scorecard for each board member and use it as a reference when (regularly) evaluating each member’s efforts.
  6. Especially if your staff is small, make sure the board knows the basics—where things are and who to call—if you should leave for any reason.
  7. Require that your board visit the site of your activities at least once a year.
  8. Train your board in fundraising.

Next time, Genius Bar panelists share how they empower their staff to advance an organization’s mission.